By Anthony Tan in Tours
Popular French rider Cedric Vasseur may be celebrating his 35th birthday a few weeks after the conclusion of this year's Tour de France, but hopes he's also toasting a stage win at La Grand Boucle sometime before then.
When Cyclingnews caught up with the Cofidis pro at yesterday's Stage 2 start in Challans, he said he'd had no intention of riding 'à bloc' (all out) in the opening time trial. As a professional of 12 years, he knows what his limitations are, and on Saturday, that result was limited to 176th place.
"Ah, I can not go à bloc in the prologue," laughed Vasseur, "it's not my specialty, I have nothing to win. I just did the time trial like normal and I will do the same in the second time trial in St. Etienne [Stage 20]. My aim here is to win a stage; I cannot win a time trial, so it's stupid for me to waste energy."
Nor was he prepared to waste energy the following day on the road to Les Essarts: "It will really hard for an escape to go," he said before the stage. "I mean, there's something like a five percent chance of succeeding... not a lot."
Apart from a third place at the Tour du Haut Var and sixth at the Etoile de Besseges in February, Vasseur's had a pretty quiet year up till now. 2003 was his best year, where he won six races including overall victories in Paris-Correze and Hessen Rundfahrt and a stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, but in 2004, things got much leaner, even though he still managed a stage victory at the Tour du Limousin and the Tour de l'Ain. To make matters worse, he was suspended from racing for almost a month due to a doping investigation led by a French judge in early April, but was later cleared of any doping offences - although the same couldn't be said for a few of his previous team-mates.
While Vasseur has essentially centered his season around the Tour in years past, this year he also decided to ride the Giro d'Italia for the first time. "I just wanted to have a look, and for me, it's the first time I'm doing the Tour with another big tour behind, so I'm discovering how my body will react to that," he said.
So when will Cedric take his chances?
"For me, the Tour starts on Thursday [Stage 6 from Troyes to Nancy - ed.]. By then, we will have had five days behind us and normally, there is some opportunity for a stage [win]. Until Thursday, I'll work for the team - for Stuart [O'Grady], to keep [David] Moncoutié in good position - and after that, I'll have an opportunity [for myself] on Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
"I should be okay in the middle[-sized] mountain stages; the one from Gérardmer to Mulhouse [Stage 9] should be a good one for me. I think as soon as the road starts to climb a little - not the big mountains, because I'm not a climber - I will have 100 percent of my form. And after the [first] mountains in the Alps, the stages in the Massif Central will be important. So until then, nothing - just wait."